Zimbabwe’s High Court has nullified the appointment of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa as the head of his own party, amid claims of government interference.
Mr Nelson Chamisa took over from late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in February last year. Six months later, he challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential election.
He lost the election by a narrow margin despite a split in the opposition party on the eve of the controversial polls.
High Court Judge Esther Muremba on Wednesday ruled that Mr Chamisa’s appointment as vice president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 2017 and his subsequent assumption of the presidency was unconstitutional.
The judge ordered the party to hold an extra-ordinary congress within a month to choose a new leader.
Mr Tsvangirai, who died of colon cancer last year, appointed Mr Chamisa and Mr Elias Mudzuri as way of managing his succession.
Justice Muremba’s ruling cast a shadow on the MDC’s congress that was scheduled of May 25 where Mr Chamisa was unchallenged for the leadership of the party.
However, the former ICT minister, who is still challenging President Mnangagwa’s 2018 election victory, hinted that the judgement will not stop the congress.
“We are going ahead with the congress,” Mr Chamisa said after the judgement. “We are going to appeal this ruling and it will have the effect of suspending the judgement; we had budgeted for this.”
Former Education minister David Coltart, a lawyer, described the judgement as “farcical” and indicated it would not stop the party from holding the congress to choose Mr Tsvangirai’s successor.
“It will be appealed,” Mr Coltart tweeted. “This is what is called a brutum fulmen – ‘empty thunder’, an ineffective order.
“By the time the appeal is heard a duly constituted congress of the MDC will have been held and (Mr) Nelson Chamisa elected. (This is) pathetic interference with the due process of the party.”
The MDC accuses President Mnangagwa’s government of interfering with the process to choose Mr Tsvangirai’s successor by blocking Mr Chamisa’s from leading the party.